Lawrence Gaston is still in the early stages of his tech career, but he see a long-term future for himself in the field.
In a year, the Byte Back grad went from a nursing assistant to IT help desk pro after taking a full slate of classes through the D.C.-based tech training nonprofit. He earned both his CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification and then his A+ certification in 2019. Since then, he’s held contracts with D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, DC Public Schools and FEMA.
Technical.ly talked with Gaston to learn more about his training, goals and work so far. Here’s how he got here.
Technical.ly: Take us through your working journey thus far. What jobs did you hold before your current role, related to it or not?
Lawrence Gaston: I was working as a certified nursing assistant, but I didn’t think that was the right path for me. A colleague suggested Byte Back, so I applied and received my CompTIA A+ certification. I had amazing instructors at Byte Back: Mr. Marty and Andrew made learning fun.
After graduating Byte Back in 2019, I worked with them in an internship, which taught me a lot. Then I found a job at WiseTech Solutions, where I was an Apple Tech. After that, I worked with the Midtown Group on a contract with DC Public Schools in a help desk/customer service position. Due to COVID-19, that contract ended, and I’ve been working at the DC COVID Call Center since then, helping people set up their appointments. It’s another customer service position, but it’s been a welcome break.
What did you think your career would look like at this point when you first started working?
I was honestly unsure about my career as I was starting at the bottom. It was especially scary to leave WiseTech, a full time job, for a contact role with Midtown Group. I was worried about stability, but in the end, the job helped me grow and gain new experiences from those around me. I think it helped me grow in my IT profession as well.
Are there certain things someone must do, or certain requirements they should fulfill, to prepare to work in tech?
The fundamentals are very important! Tech hardware is a lot like “adult Legos,” like my instructor put it. The foundation should always be the first thing that’s looked towards.
What’s something about your career in tech that’s been surprising or you didn’t expect?
I didn’t expect so much travel! With my job at DCPS, I drove around D.C. repairing equipment and solving problems. I’m more used to it now, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew before you started the position?
When I started, I assumed A+ was the highest level of certification, but I learned quickly that it’s just a stepping stone to the other languages and programs.
How do you continue learning and growing in your role?
I honestly learn a lot from Google and YouTube; I was taught that if you don’t know it, ask a question or Google it.
Where do you think you are in your career? Opening, middlegame or endgame? And what do you believe (or envision) to be the most important marker for each?
I definitely think I’m still at the opening of my career. There’s still a lot I need to learn. I think middlegame would be continuing my education — finishing Security+, Network+, etc. My main goal is to work in cybersecurity, and I’d like to go even farther than that in the future.
My dream job is in cybersecurity because I love helping people. Working in IT and having people ask, “Whoa, how’d you do that?” and showing them how is the coolest thing ever. I get a good feeling from it.-30-